Hacking (Higher) Education: An Intro

An introduction to Audrey Watters and to her new Inside Higher Ed blog, Hack (Higher) Education.

October 31, 2011

Greetings readers, and welcome to this new blog at Inside Higher Ed:  Hack (Higher) Education.

A typical introductory post usually describes who the author is, what they'll cover, and why you should read her or his writing.  But I'm going to start instead with an explanation of what I mean by this blog's title.  After all, when I mentioned on Google+ that I'd have a new blog here called Hack (Higher) Education, someone asked, "Are you going to teach people how to hack into university databases?"

Um, no.

But their point is well taken.  "Hacking" still has a negative connotation in a lot of circles.  Hackers have a reputation -- a fairly outdated one, I'd argue -- of being criminals.  Defined in part by Hollywood, hackers are disgruntled and disenfranchised, yet smarter than "the system" -- able to break in, steal data, cause mayhem, and destroy institutions, governments, worlds.  "To hack" has other meanings too, of course -- to cut and chop roughly; to cope; to piece together; to mangle.

No surprise then, when the verb "hack" is given the direct object "higher education," all of these various meanings and pop culture references may well be cause for alarm.

And even if you refute the negative stereotypes about hackers as criminals, that alarm is part of the point.  After all, technology's impact on education does seem to offer all these potentials at once -- both the assembly and the disassembly of institutions and of knowledge.

That is both the great opportunity and the great challenge that lies ahead for those of us involved with education:  how will technology "hack" it? In this blog, I plan to address some of the developments in the tech industry and analyze how these might impact teaching, learning, institutions, teachers, students. But I'm also just as intrigued by the possibilities of the inverse:  how will education "hack" technology?  In other words, how will teachers and students and institutions "hack" technology back? How will a new era of technology and a new generation of technology users challenge some of the institutional practices, policies, and power-players both in education and in education technology?

That's a "hack" I plan to examine here.  My posts on Inside Higher Ed will -- like me -- traverse both the worlds of academia and the worlds of "hackers" (or at least the worlds of technology companies, both established and upstart).

As far as the other requisite introductory pieces about me:  you can find my CV here, my website here, my work in other publications here and here, and you can rest assured -- just as you might expect from someone with a blog titled Hack (Higher) Education -- that my business card reads "writer" and "rabble-rouser."


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